Saturday, March 13, 2010

Can the church "act and speak together" on "Human Dignity and the Future of Health Care"?

According to the classic definition of the nature of the visible unity sought by the modern ecumenical movement adopted by the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, India in 1961, such unity will mean "that all can act and speak together as occasion requires." It goes without saying that the whole church today is manifestly unable to act and speak together regarding almost any contemporary issue, and that inability is illustrated by the varied relations of Christians and their churches to the current debate over health care reform in the United States.

The 2010 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Faith and Learning will address the theme "Human Dignity and the Future of Health Care" October 28-30, 2010 in Waco, Texas. Here's the description of the conference from the IFL web site:

In the practice of health care a complicated array of issues converges: public policy and economic considerations impinge on a myriad of social and moral demands related to medical research and the distribution and delivery of medical care. As the recent debate concerning health care reform in the United States illustrates, not only have these issues largely been argued about in isolation from one another, they too often have been removed from an account of what it means to be human--a person endowed with dignity and therefore deserving of care--and the role of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners in offering that care.

Inspired by the conviction that a Christian understanding of the dignity of the human person should inform these fundamental questions, the 2010 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture seeks to explore the future of health care, not only in the United States but around the world. In an often compartmentalized debate, how might an acknowledgment of human dignity shape our understanding of the moral, political, and economic dimensions of one of the most pressing concerns of our time?

While the scholars who will participate in this symposium will not do so as official representatives of their churches, their discussion and debate of appropriate Christian perspectives and responses can make its own contribution to the church's ability to act and speak together on this important issue. A PDF of the call for papers is available here.

Speaking of the work of the Institute for Faith and Learning: I discovered today on the IFL site that Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community (Baker Academic, 2006), a book developed out of one of their previous conference (and to which I contributed a chapter), was one of four finalists for the 2009 Lilly Fellows Program Book Award. (My chapter, for what it's worth, was on "Communal Conflict in the Postmodern Christian University.)

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